Last Friday, Hofbrauhaus in Rosemont launched its annual Octoberfest celebration, which runs through October 23.
In the early 1970s, some American friends and I traveled to Munich with pretty much one goal in mind: to visit the Hofbrauhaus and sample the legendary beer. The Hofbrauhaus is a centuries-old beer hall; Wilhelm V, Duke of Bavaria, ordered the brewery built at the end of the sixteenth century so that he and his noble pals could drink the good stuff without paying the high cost of hauling it by horse cart to Munich.
As at Munich's Hofbrauhaus, Rosemont's version of this 400-year-old beer hall is outfitted with long wooden tables. These communal tables make it possible to seat many people side-by-side, so more people can fit in, and it also encourages the camaraderie of the beer hall by putting everyone elbow-to-elbow: just sit next to someone new and hoist a stein together.
Rosemont's dining room is well appointed, with plain wood benches that are somewhat comfier than those at the Bavarian original. The room is lighter, with more windows and more cleanly designed than the original location – then again, the Munich Hofbrauhaus was designed a long time ago.
The food at our local Hofbrauhaus is very good. We started with an absolutely wonderful and simple Bayerischer Raditeller ($11.99), a large platter of spiral cut radishes, with brown bread spread with butter and chives: light, vegetable-forward, and beautiful looking.
Our Wurstsalat ($13.99), a sausage salad, was composed of a type of Lyoner, basically thin-sliced German-style Bologna, dressed in oil and vinegar and topped with Swiss cheese. The tartness of this salad proved an excellent palate-perker, and I could probably have ended dinner right there. But I didn't.
My main was course Weisswurst ($14.99), two wieners, one of pork and the other of veal, floating in a tureen of hot water. A few years ago, Joe Kreml of the Village of Oak Park and I did a video about Weisswurst at Carnivore, where I had the sausages grilled. There's something to be said for grilling Weisswurst, but I prefer it the way they do it in Munich: poached, so that the mild seasonings of the sausage come through. And I didn't peel and eat the sausage like a banana either, which as the video suggests is one traditional way to go. Peeling and eating sausage is just too weird, and speaking of weird…
After dinner, I stepped away from the table to take a call. After I left, our dirndl-garbed serving maiden came to our table with a long paddle holding various after-dinner beverages. Then, I'm told, she offered to spank the butts of anyone in the mood. My tablemates, including one huge blue-eyed and blond man in Lederhosen, took their spankings, as did others all around the beer hall. Later, I asked Jim Olson, General Manager, if this was a German tradition. It isn't. "It started in the Las Vegas Hofbrauhaus," Olson told me, "and caught on in Rosemont. It's not offered at other Hofbrauhaus franchises in either Germany or the United States. People like it. Sometimes, though, we get calls from wives or girlfriends who want to know how their husbands or boyfriends those black and blue marks on their butts."
About the beer, we tried the Dunkel, Lager and Pils, and were most impressed by the Hefeweizen. Moderately heavy on the tongue, this Hefeweizen is spicy with hints of maybe cardamom, clove, and the usual banana-like notes, just delicious. This was by far the most tasty and well-crafted beer I had that night, which is no surprise, I guess, as it's been perfected by Hofbrauhaus over the past four centuries.
Though Octoberfest is definitely the busy season at Rosemont's Hofbrauhaus, this beer hall is open year-round. They offer a new beer every month, and every few weeks they fly in German bands who play the traditional songs as well as covers of American pop tunes. It's a fun time, even if you forgo the festive flogging.
5500 Park Place
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